Seamus Heaney's prose poetics return repeatedly to the adequacy of poetry, its ameliorative, restorative response to the violence of historical life. It is a curiously equivocal ideal, and as such most clearly demonstrates the intellectual origins, the humanist character, and the inherent strains of these poetics, the work of one of the world's leading poet-critics of the last thirty years. Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry is the first study of the development of Heaney's thought and its central theme. Eschewing the tendency of critics to endorse or expand on Heaney's poetics in largely adulatory terms, it draws on archival as well as print sources to trace the emerging dualistic shape, redemptive logic, and post-Christian nature of Heaney's thought, from his undergraduate formation to his late cultural poetics. It also includes a meticulous and wholly new examination of Heaney's revisions to previously published prose. Dennison takes seriously the post-Christian, frequently religious tenor of Heaney's language, showing how his belief in poetry's adequacy ultimately constitutes an Arnoldian substitute for-indeed, an 'afterimage' of-Christian belief. This is the deep significance of the idea of adequacy to Heaney's thought: it allows us to identify precisely the late humanist character and the limits of his troubled trust in poetry.